Eight Kenyan Civilians Killed in UPDF Airstrike in Karamoja

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Eight Kenyans are feared dead after the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) dropped bombs on manyattas in Kotido District, which borders Turkana District in Kenya. A ninth person who died in the attack is said to be a Ugandan herdsman. The Nairobi-based newspaper, The Standard, reports that the Turkana District Commissioner, George Ayonga, confirmed that Kenyans were the main casualties in the bombing in Uganda on Saturday. Ayonga said he had called his Ugandan counterpart who confirmed that eight bombs had been dropped in the densely populated area by the UPDF. Although the casualty figures could not be established, initial reports indicated that the figures could rise because the valley where the bombs were dropped is densely populated with pastoralists from Turkana and the Jie community in Uganda. Edaan JohnMark, a relief worker with Riam-Riam-Turkana, an NGO working among pastoralists, told The Standard that heavy gunfire was heard from the direction of the Turkana manyattas and could be heard in Kotido town, which is located about 40 kilometers away. The gunfire lasted 25 minutes before the helicopter headed back to base. Many Turkanas, fearing more attacks, are said to have embarked on a massive exodus on foot towards Turkana District. In an interview with the Associated Press, UPDF spokesperson, Major Felix Kulayigye, said the Ugandan army helicopter returned fire after it was attacked by tribesmen in the country's restless northeast. He said the helicopter was on a routine area patrol when it was attacked from the ground and was forced to respond. Kulayigye said the UPDF has deployed military personnel in the area to investigate and establish the number of people who died during the air strike. A news conference on the matter is scheduled for Tuesday. Karamoja is an impoverished, drought-ridden area in northeastern Uganda. It has been a trafficking point for small arms, many of which go to cattle rustlers who carry out raids in neighboring villages.